There are lots of ways to become more comfortable with your body, but animator and illustrator Stacy Bias hit upon one you may not have considered: butt portraits. Whether they’re doing it as a gift for someone, for self love or for something else, people are responding positively, and Stacy’s butt portrait orders are piling up. Stacy and I discussed why she started doing butt portraits, what she thinks customers are getting out of them, and a few of the other projects she’s working on.
When you meet new people, how do you describe yourself/what you do? I describe myself as an activism-lead animator and illustrator. I’ve been in queer and fat liberation work for 25 years and I’ve learned a lot of difficult lessons in that time. I try to bring those ethics into my work both personally and professionally. For pay, I mainly work with academics and charities on creative research dissemination (making research accessible for others). My passion projects often combine my own research and interviews with animation/illustration to create documentary pieces like the Flying While Fat animation.
Where did the idea for butt portraits come from? I’d love for there to be a heartwarming story about this. In actuality, I was experimenting with watercolors and ink washes one day and I doodled a fictional butt with all of its dimples and imperfections proudly on show. I tossed it up online because I thought it was adorable and then folks started asking for their own. It’s been an absolute joy. And the source of so many butt puns. SO MANY.
The butts themselves vary wildly! Big butts, little butts, lady butts, dude butts, non-binary butts, standing butts, sitting butts, comedy butts, serious butts, sexy butts, solo butts, duo butts – all kinds of butts!
Why do you think so many people are commissioning butt portraits? I think the most obvious thing that connects all the commissions is warmth and a sense of humor. The butts themselves vary wildly! Big butts, little butts, lady butts, dude butts, non-binary butts, standing butts, sitting butts, comedy butts, serious butts, sexy butts, solo butts, duo butts – all kinds of butts! And I make no secret about the fact that I’m going to lovingly highlight every single supposed imperfection; every dimple, every bit of cellulite, every delightful roll of flesh. The portraits are cheeky (see? butt puns!) and gritty and comical.
People’s reasons for wanting them also vary — sometimes they’re gifts for lovers, sometimes they’re an exercise in self-love and liberation from internalised fatphobia. One person let me know that she moved internationally and took very few things with her, but her framed butt portrait was one of them! I love that story!
Has anything about the butt portrait project surprised you? I do think it’s funny and fitting that the more perfect an arse, the less successful the portrait (in my estimation) because the supposed flaws are what give the illustration its charm. Perfectly smooth butts are rendered in just a few simple clean lines – but a wobbly, freckled, dimpled posterior makes for an absolute visual feast. That knowledge makes me very happy!
Can you talk about your trajectory as an illustrator? How did you get your start? Funnily enough, it’s a really latent skill. I didn’t even realize I could draw until about five years ago! I took a one-off Stop Motion animation course, intending it to be a restful break amidst a double-major degree, and ended up falling head over heels in love with both illustration and animation. It’s been a very steep learning curve and changing career horses mid-stream at 40 is no joke. But animation and illustration are the first tools I’ve found that allowed me to combine my personal/activist life and my professional life into one single thing that I love. I’m intensely grateful.
That brings me so much joy — knowing that, in some small but lasting way, I helped people gather together to support, empower and uplift one another.
Aside from butt portraits, what work of yours are you most proud of? The work I’m the most proud of actually has nothing to do with drawing or illustration. Back in Portland, I was a community organizer – both online and on the ground – and many of those communities and connections are still actively thriving. That brings me so much joy — knowing that, in some small but lasting way, I helped people gather together to support, empower and uplift one another. I suppose I’m still doing that work in smaller ways by running (with an amazing team of co-admins!) the Flying While Fat group on Facebook, and I’ve even started a free queer co-working space in my glorified garden shed.
I don’t seem to be able to stop trying to facilitate community. That fundamental drive for connection is what underlies all of my work – even the storytelling in animation and illustration. I want people to understand one another better.
Do you plan to continue to do butt portraits long-term or is this a limited-time thing? I open commissions as I have time – mostly between larger freelance projects – so it’s quite variable. For 2019, I expect commissions to be open between now and mid-November.
How to Get Your Own Butt Portrait
Want Stacy to do a butt portrait for you? Order one through her Etsy shop. Remember, you’ll need to send her a photo of your butt so that she can create the portrait. Here are her tips to get the perfect butt selfie:
“Have the picture taken from Near-Butt-Level so the butt is central to the image. If you’re taking a selfie, put the camera/phone on a butt-height table or on a kitchen counter, walk far enough away from the camera so that the upper thighs and lower back are included and hold your arms away from your body if possible. (no worries if not!) If you are taking a seated butt pic and you have another chair of the same height, set the camera on the chair and move it far enough away that your upper torso and some of your calves are in view. These do not have to be great photos but they need to be in focus and well-lit enough that I can see the silhouette of your butt.”